Earlier in the day, the Pelicans announced Anthony Davis was questionable for the Suns game after suffering a sprained ankle in the morning's shootaround. About 1.5 hours before tip-off, the dreaded news was announced.
.@OchsnerHealth injury update: Anthony Davis (left ankle sprain) will not play tonight vs. the Suns— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 20, 2015
On cue, the Pelicans offense went missing in action. They managed to tally 34 points in the first half, shooting 34.9% from the floor and 37.5% from the free throw line!
It's really just too much to ask a team with 3 of their top 5 scorers sitting it out and a fourth hobbling around on a bad ankle to pull out a victory on the road, even if it's against an opponent without several key contributors as well. And we haven't even mentioned yet that Evans would go on to re-tweak his ankle and Omer Asik needed to leave this game in the 3rd quarter.
You've GOT to be KIDDING. RT. @PelicansPR Omer Asik (calf strain) is doubtful to return tonight at Phoenix.— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) March 20, 2015
It's really gotten to the point of ridiculousness -- 5 of the Pelicans' 6 top players being either partially or fully restricted from participation. Thus, it's astounding tonight's matchup against the Suns came down to the final possession. After Eric Gordon hit a three and Marcus Morris missed on the other end, the Pelicans had a chance to take the lead with 28 seconds remaining.
As witnessed in the quick recap, Evans had a very good look to accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, as it was the case all night, the shot didn't drop. For instance, inside the paint area, the Pelicans made just 35.7% of their attempts.
Eric Gordon started the game off looking for his shot and he canned 2 of his first 3 catch and shoot opportunities. At the first timeout, he had 6 of the Pelicans 12 points and assisted on two other scores. After play resumed, the lead evaporated as the well ran dry. The Suns went on a 4+ minute 9-0 run, and this theme would continue for the rest of the quarter. New Orleans managed to score only 3 points in the final 6:26. They were fortunate to find themselves down just 21-15.
In the second quarter, Norris Cole and Alexis Ajinca combined to score 11 of the first 13 points. However, since the start of the game, the Pelicans sprinkled in too many bad turnovers. A short while later, Tyreke Evans crumpled to the floor as he seemed to reaggravate his ankle sprain on a drive to the rim. He was able to return later, but the Pelicans remained ineffective throughout the rest of the first half, limping into halftime with just 34 points.
After Brandan Wright scored right out of halftime, the Pelicans went on a 9-2 run sparked by two good Tyreke conversions at the rim. The good times were short-lived though as the Suns rebuilt the lead back to double digits as the Pelicans offense mustered only 2 points in a 6 minute span.
With 2:31 remaining in the third quarter, the Pelicans trailed 55-45 and it appeared the game was almost over. However, that's the difference this season from the last several -- this team normally has no idea on how to roll over. For the remainder of the period, they clawed back and cut the deficit to a mere 2 points.
The fourth quarter started with a bang as the Pelicans took the lead less than a minute into it on an emphatic Alexis Ajinca dunk. For the rest of the game, the teams were never separated by more than 5 points. Sadly though, the comeback bid would end up just short.
- Eric Gordon led the team with 14 points, but outside of the start and finish of the game, he was largely invisible. I applaud him for continually trying to score inside, but just as it was the case tonight, the success rate isn't there. For the season, he's made 44.3% of his attempts inside 3 feet. For comparison, Austin Rivers in his rookie season made 48.8% of those same looks. Kyle Korver 2.0 or bust?
- Tyreke Evans' moxy is quite admirable. He is willing to play through the pain and injury more than 99% of his peers, yet I can't help but wonder if that's a good thing. When he re-entered the game, the game was tied at 62. I believe his only additional statistical contributions was 1 rebound and 1 steal. He was able to have a positive effect out of halftime because the training staff took care of that ankle. After sitting on the bench for his rest, it sure looked like it probably tightened back up because he didn't look the same.
- Norris Cole was the 2nd-leading scorer on the night. He hit some timely shots, and on more than one occasion, forced the Suns to take a difficult shot or make a turnover. His boxscore line may look ugly more times than not, but you can't teach the grit he plays with, one this team desperately needs.
- Alexis Ajinca played well once Omer Asik was ruled out for the rest of the game. He finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. Btw, I replayed the final play of the game, and from the angle FSNO provided, I didn't see the blatant push by neither P.J. Tucker nor Eric Bledsoe that Twitter claimed. There was contact but I felt it was by both parties. I believe when Ajinca didn't think he had a chance for the ball, he decided to see if he could draw a foul by allowing the momentum to look like an egregious push.
- In general, Monty Williams called a very good game. The plays he designs out of timeouts continue to have the highest of success rates. However, I can't help but think he should have had more offensive orientated players out on the floor, especially in the 2nd half. Brandan Wright shut down the middle (7 blocks!) against our ground-hugging starting backcourt. Having another legitimate deep threat on the floor (Williams, Babbitt, Fredette, Q-Pon) in place of Cunningham or a hampered Evans might have proved more fruitful.
As you're probably aware, the Pelicans are now a full game behind the Thunder for the 8th spot in the Western Conference, and in less than 24 hours, they have to play the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors. I want to believe that Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik will be able to play. I hope that Steve Kerr decides to rest a number of his core players, much like he did against the Denver Nuggets one week earlier.
Yep, New Orleans season has gotten to the point where we need a favor and a prayer to be heard.